As a lifelong Shakespeare fan, I’ve known of the various debates about which of his plays came first, whether Shakespeare was indeed Shakespeare (and not, say, Francis Bacon), whether he loved his wife, how educated he was, and so on with the minutiae. I admit I haven’t much cared, preferring to focus my attention on the sublimity of his plays and poetry instead.
Along comes Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson, a writer generally known for his travelogues. What caught my attention most about this short, engaging book was Bryson’s ability to sum up all the threads of an argument and then not take sides. There is so little actual information about Shakespeare’s life that it is tempting to speculate wildly about who he was, and many people have, but Bryson invites us to revel in not knowing.
Along the way you learn about everything from the political-religious conflicts of the day and their possible effect on Shakespeare’s career to the wild diet of the average Englishman (both noble and commoner), as well as Shakespeare’s likely education as a country boy and his unparalleled contributions to English literature and our language itself.
This book was so interesting I felt like watching at least a few of the Bard’s plays.